The Heartbreak of IAMHS

operators are standing by

operators are standing byHello, friends. I’d like to talk to you today about an epidemic that is sweeping through our community. It’s called Indie Author Multiple Hat Syndrome (IAMHS).

The symptoms of this affliction include night sweats, bouts of rage, feelings of inadequacy, and an overwhelming desire to dump the whole project in the trash. The malady bears some similarity to multiple personality disorder, except that in cases of IAMHS, the discrete personalities come in four standard types.

We turn now to a case study for a more in-depth look at IAMHS. The subject of our case study is…yours truly.

The Writer: The descent into madness begins. The subject perceives herself to be, y’know, an okay writer. She has an idea for a book, and she drafts it, then edits and rewrites it, and conscripts friends and relatives into helping her polish it. Finally, it is time to publish it, and she decides to go indie.

The Art Director: The syndrome truly takes hold now, as the subject must devise a cover for her book. Our subject has described herself as having the artistic ability of a brick. She is also not wealthy. So this phase involves obsessive stalking of royalty-free stock photo websites and arcane discussions of the relative merits of Photoshop CS vs. GIMP. Then come long nights of muttering and screaming as the subject comes to realize that the commands in visual design programs are not written in any known language.

The Marketer: At last, a decent-looking book cover is appended to the manuscript and the whole thing is dumped into somebody’s Meatgrinder. But the subject quickly realizes she cannot simply “publish it and readers will come”; she must actually get out there and sell it. That means forcing herself to schmooze with bloggers and other writers. For some sufferers, this is the worst sort of torture – akin to the sound of a screeching child at the grocery store – because writers, as a tribe, are introverts. The last thing they want to do is call attention to themselves. They would rather spend their time writing. Yet our subject must walk a fine line between ignoring book bloggers and abjectly begging them for a review. And she must smile and nod pleasantly at readers, even when they eviscerate her work with one-star reviews.

The Product: If our subject thought the Marketer phase of IAMHS was torture, she ain’t seen nothing yet. Her absolute lowest point comes when she realizes that she is the thing she is selling. The Writer has become commodified. Suddenly she realizes that people want to see a picture of her, for no good reason she can think of. She is coached by the well-meaning as to what she should and shouldn’t say in public (“don’t give three-star reviews”; “don’t be so outspoken on your blog”). All this makes her want to hide under her desk, but the Marketer, that tyrant, won’t let her.

It’s a relentless affliction, and there is no cure, although symptoms can be eased briefly by writing another book. But then the madness begins again.

So please, give what you can. Operators are standing by.

Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. But she began as a fantasy writer (in the second grade), and is back at it today. She currently lives near Washington, DC. Learn more about Lynne at her blog and at her Amazon author page.

28 thoughts on “The Heartbreak of IAMHS”

  1. Wonderful post, Lynne, thank you. I can’t imagine how many Indies will read this and nod their smiling heads in acknowledgement. There may be no cure, but I find beer and cigarettes to be surprisingly effective medication (blast, did I just break a rule there? ;))

  2. I suffer, I admit. But she forgot about the “Formatter”– the one who spends countless hours droning over a manuscript looking for extra spaces, lack of indents (or too large of an indent), extra returns (which make SW mad), and a host of other maladies that will leave you banging your head against the wall. All of this done to produce a beautiful book to read. Yup, my brain hurts!

    Great post, loved it!

  3. I think they are going to need a facility that specialises in this malady … then again, if we all get cured we won’t write any more, so maybe not.
    Hilarious because it’s so true.

  4. Please! Do a post on palliative care for this debilitating syndrome! I’m still in the early stages but I can feel the noose tightening. We need help before it’s too late.

    [I thought about Chris’ meds but I gave up smoking years ago and I’m a one-pot screamer. Is there anything else?]

  5. Sorry for the mass response, but I’m at a secret retreat facility for IAMHS sufferers, where they limit our internet access lest we suffer a relapse. 😉 Kathy, you’re right, I missed a major phase of the syndrome – thanks for backstopping me. And Candy, please let me know when those t-shirts go on sale – I’ll definitely get one.

    1. Feel better!

      Being a totally self-published author, the bane of my existence is formatting. Fortunately, the more you do it, the better you get. But there will always be a monkey wrench that gets thrown in just before publishing!

  6. OMG, I just wrote my promotion manual today. It’s scary, all the good ideas to, maybe, fulfill. Just when I promised myself I could get back to my fave — the writing. Thanks, would say so funny if it were not so true.

  7. I can relate! You put your heart and soul into writing the book and then it seems like nothing you do works to promote it. It feels like swimming upstream! The upside is that I’ve met a lot of interesting fellow indie authors and enjoyed a number of good reads that I never would have discovered. I have also put on the reviewer hat and it helps get my creative juices flowing.

  8. Thanks for making me smile and nod my head in agreement. You forgot to add the part where the author madly checks his/her sales stats, hoping that numbers will show and grow.

  9. Bill, I’m in recovery for sales stats checking, too. And yes, Chris, et al., various medicinal substances can be extremely helpful. In fact, I have some right…crap, here comes the orderly.

  10. Oh bloody hell, I must be madder than the lot of you. I’m not only doing all that, but I’m doing it for other writers as well! And if you think formatting your own work is bad, just try sorting out a Word doc written by an old-school typist with bad eyesight who can barely use email. And who needs to have an Amazon account and Smashwords account opened and administered for them. Aarrgh! *reaches for whisky bottle and determinedly throws cap out the window…*

  11. I love it, great post Lynne.

    You definitely nailed it, and I love the addition from Bill, sales stat checking is a dangerous side effect of IAMHS!

  12. I just have one question: When did you sneak into my house and put in cameras? LOL! Very true, and very funny! I was one of the smiling, nodding heads! 🙂 Commodified! Wait until I flip that one at my husband!

    (I want a shirt, too, by the way. I’ve been through this eleven times! And I thought the night sweats were due to aging! Silly me!)

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